Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The New American Proletariat

It isn’t entirely the fault of the Obama administration, but more and more Americans have, of late been falling out of the middle class. Joel Kotkin explains that they are becoming a new American proletariat.

Kotkin adds that, under the Obama administration, the decline has accelerated.

He explains:

The biggest issue facing the American economy, and our political system, is the gradual descent of the middle class into proletarian status. This process, which has been going on intermittently since the 1970s, has worsened considerably over the past five years, and threatens to turn this century into one marked by downward mobility.

The decline has less to do with the power of the “one percent” per se than with the drying up of opportunity amid what is seen on Wall Street and in the White House as a sustained recovery. Despite President Obama’s rhetorical devotion to reducing inequality, it has widened significantly under his watch. Not only did the income of the middle 60% of households drop between 2010 and 2012 while that of the top 20% rose, the income of the middle 60% declined by a greater percentage than the poorest quintile. The middle 60% of earners’ share of the national pie has fallen from 53% in 1970 to 45% in 2012.

This group, what I call the yeoman class — the small business owners, the suburban homeowners , the family farmers or skilled construction tradespeople — is increasingly endangered. Once the dominant class in America, it is clearly shrinking: In the four decades since 1971 the percentage of Americans earning between two-thirds and twice the national median income has dropped from 61% to 51% of the population, according to Pew.

Roughly one in three people born into middle class-households, those between the 30th and 70th percentiles of income, now fall out of that status as adults.

Undoubtedly, there are many reasons why this is happening. And there are a number of different policy solutions, outlined well by Kotkin.

And yet, combining Kotkin’s column with the news about how American schoolchildren, like their British counterparts are falling behind in math (see previous post), we should consider the possibility that Americans have been poorly trained and educated.

If Americans lack the skills or the discipline required to add value to an economic enterprise, they will lose out to people who do have them.

How much can a child who lacks math and technology skills contribute to the economy? How much can a child who lacks confidence and competitive drive advance himself in the marketplace?

If Americans cannot contribute enough to justify their earning the wages that will place them in the middle class, they will become a new proletariat.

How did it happen?

In part, it happened because learning has been dumbed down. It was more important to ensure that mediocre students not feel badly about being mediocre than to encourage them emulate children who were doing better.

The smarter children  are bored; they learn to hate school; they will never live up to their potential.

Moreover, if hard work is not rewarded, why work hard? If everyone gets a trophy, why learn the discipline that produces excellence?

How else did it happen?

In the past, math and science were domains where boys excelled. One day, our educrats decided that the disparity of aptitude and achievement was a sign of sexism. They responded by ignoring boys in class in favor of girls. They wrote the curriculum to make math and science ore girl-friendly.

Apparently, the more girl friendly math does not compete well with the math they teach in Asian countries.

Ironically, these policies are based on gender stereotypes. They are not merely denying boys the ability to develop their skills at math and science. They are refusing to allow girls to learn how to compete.

Believing that girls prefer to cooperate and to join together in circles of caring, they insist that learning become a cooperative enterprise where no one should do so well that he makes other children feel bad.

Evidently, the message has not reached Asia. Besides, the Tiger Mom brought up two daughters. She had no problem demanding of her daughters rigorous discipline and a strong work ethic..

In the name of girlifying math and science education our pedagogues seem to have deprived both girls and boys of skills they need to compete in the world economy.

The result: a feminized American workforce is competing in the global economy against children who have not chosen to suppress all signs of masculinity.

And of course, culture matters. Are children taught that America is a great nation that has achieved great things? Are they being inspired to become part of a successful nation? Are they taught that America has enjoyed great successes in building a nation, growing an economy, and winning wars?

Or are they taught that America is an organized criminal conspiracy, run by male patriarchs who have exploited the weak and the poor for their advantage? Are they taught that America is an imperialist, colonialist power that has robbed the rest of the world? Do they learn that the only good thing America has ever done is to feel empathy for those who have lost out and to give them charity?

If children are not taught pride in their nation they will not have pride in their own work. If they feel demoralized by a systematic attempt to teach them how to diminish and demean their their nation, they will transfer the skill to themselves. If they believe that success is a crime, they will never be able to develop their talents.

The result: a new American proletariat.


Anonymous said...

Elizabeth Warren was talking about this in 2007. You can send blame in many directions, but working hard is no longer enough. The simplest blame is "globalization" means your only leverage to keep high salary is to be a "team player" on a good team, and second be wise enough to only have 1-2 kids and avoid the debt trap.


Distinguished law scholar Elizabeth Warren teaches contract law, bankruptcy, and commercial law at Harvard Law School. She is an outspoken critic of America's credit economy, which she has linked to the continuing rise in bankruptcy among the middle-class. Series: "UC Berkeley Graduate Council Lectures" [6/2007]

Anonymous said...

Four things on this:

First, it is an attack on the very concept of achievement. Like so many Left-wing fallacies (and fantasies), achievement has come to be viewed as a zero-sum game: I win, you lose. Or, even better, the bourgeoisie wins, the proletariat loses. "The 1%" is even better, because knuckleheads only have to remember one digit. Beliefs are very important. If young people don't believe they can achieve (a la, Obama's speeches these last few months), they check out.

Second, you said "Or are they taught that America is an organized criminal conspiracy, run by male patriarchs who have exploited the weak and the poor for their advantage? " The answer is clearly YES. And this goes back to the achievement piece. We've become a nation of "nice people." How do you like the results?

Third, 99 weeks of unemployment is akin to the devaluation of work. Work has dignity to it, and keeps the human being focused on building something beyond his own self-absorbed thoughts. I can't believe we have to say work is important in 2014, but that's where we are. 99 weeks of unemployment is teaching people that they're suckers for taking a job. If someone on unemployment is making, say, $300 in benefits (I got this from the Dept. of Labor website), that's $7.50 per hour, assuming a 40-hour "work week." Now, if the only job someone can find in this crazy economy is only $10.00 per hour, then they do the math, and say they're only going to make an additional $2.50. Why work? I'm not digging on unemployment insurance… it's important to have a safety net. But 26 weeks allows the labor market to clear. 99 weeks does not. It retards true feedback in real wages. 26 weeks gives people a cushion, 99 weeks encourages sloth. Anyone see that the number 99 is very important to the Democrats?

Fourth, with regards to the young male issue, I began to notice a trend over the last ten years with school dances. I kept hearing that few boys were asking girls to dances. It turns out they go to these dances in packs of friends. Sounds innocent enough. I don't know about you, but getting the courage to go ask a girl to a dance was a big, big deal in my life. It was a small part of growing up… a rite of passage. And it was expected. Otherwise, it was clear I wouldn't be going to the dance, and some other guy might steal my "prize" if I didn't ask her early enough. When you don't have to put yourself at risk like that, it insulates you from reality. I don't know how mothers today feel about this, but I can't say I really care, either. This is just something we should expect young boys to do. Step up. If we don't have the fortitude to demand this of boys, what will we ask them to do??? And this just in: girls like being asked out.


Leif said...

Anonymous has a good point, albeit unintentionally so.

Dirigistes, like distinguished con-artist, Elizabeth Warren, have made life all-but-impossible for small business in America. Small businesses have traditionally been the main driver of socio-economic mobility in this country.

Not any more.

I've spent the last 20 years working for, and investing in, small companies. It is exponentially more difficult to navigate the impenetrable thicket of regulations in this country than it was 20 years ago. Worse still, Elizabeth Warren and her ilk have made it almost impossible for small business people to get bank loans for working capital.

To be fair, the problem isn't just federal. Today, a small business person has local, state and federal bureaucracies all competing to put him or her out of business.

Uneducated children are also a problem. College has become a mass assembly line for unemployable, socialist agitators, not educated workers. Rather than raising taxes to churn out more of these fools, per Elizabeth Warren, we should cut back on the higher education scam. If kids have to pay for their own future, maybe they'd think twice before majoring in Communications with a minor in Queer Studies.

Ares Olympus said...

Scapegoating trends is an easy game for all, liberals, conservatives, teachers, feminists, capitalists, take your pick, and sprinkle with you choice of toppings of resentment and spite.

I like to blame the babyboomers, while they're the last generation with a shot at reeling in their retirement savings, but hiding that much cash from modern risk is a tough game for anyone who doesn't have some insider knowledge.

And while we're all rearrange the chairs on the deck, the virtual world of inhuman microsecond financial transaction is setting up a system of money making that can't possibly fail until it takes down the entire economy, and of course we'll bail them out, so its a win-win for those who have the resources to play all the angles.

Anonymous said...

I think US financial problems will worsen. The prole class will grow, augmented by illegal immigration. The middle class is shrinking. Trust in our elites is negligible.

Hatred of Govt. is rampant, egged on by wealthy demagogues from both sides. Racial & ideological animus poisons trust in each other

I've read there are Hundreds of $Trillions of exotic financial instruments floating around the world. They will surely cause a reckoning.

However. I hope for the best. -- Rich Lara

Anonymous said...

Working hard is enough. We still live in a physical world, as a matter of fact, it is the physical (food, shelter, clothing) that is basic, and jobs in those industries do not require advanced degrees.

The liberal might feel the necessity of a high salary, but the truly ambitious and industrious are willing to take risks and try to create opportunities. It is government and people like Warren that adhere to the narrow view that only government can create opportunity.

When the federal government got into trouble trying to create a health website, they called in the best; private companies, I think Obama called them the A team or something to that regard.

The social engineer did not build America, they required some capital to start with, and that came from those they currently look down on. It is the "man in the arena" today and tomorrow that create the better conditions for the Elizabeth Warrens and Barack Obamas of the world, not vice a versa.